General Services Administration

Fact Box

General Services Administration

Formed on July 1, 1949
Headquarters- U.S. General Services Administration Building, 1800 F St NW, Washington, D.C.
Administrator of General Services- Martha N. Johnson
Employees (2008) 11,742
Annual budget - $26.3 billion

The General Services Administration (GSA) serves as the federal government’s lead acquisition agency, providing everything from office supplies to automobiles to buildings for the U.S. government’s workforce of more than one million employees. The GSA manages more than one-fourth of the government’s total procurement dollars and influences the management of $500 billion in assets, including 8,600 government-owned or leased buildings, more than 425 historic properties and 208,000 vehicles.


Before the General Services Administration (GSA) existed, the federal government relied on a multitude of offices to provide it with supplies, buildings, and other services. The GSA was established by President Harry Truman on July 1, 1949, to absorb the duties of the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency and its Public Buildings Administration, the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement, and the War Assets Administration. 

GSA’s original mission was to dispose of war surplus goods, manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. The GSA also regulated the sale of various office supplies to federal agencies and managed some unusual operations, like hemp plantations in South America.

In the 1950s, the GSA took on a major overhaul of the White House. “Really, it was more than a renovation; it was a rebuilding,” said GSA Administrator Jess Larson. As part of the country’s girding for World War III with the Soviet Union, the GSA took on the critical assignment of emergency preparedness and began stockpiling strategic materials to be used in wartime. The GSA retained various emergency management functions until they were transferred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979.

In 1960, the GSA created the Federal Telecommunications System, a government-wide inter-city telephone system. In 1962, the Ad Hoc Committee on Federal Office Space recommended a major new building program to address obsolete office buildings in Washington D.C., resulting in the construction of many of the offices that now line Independence Avenue.

Authorized in 1971, the Federal Buildings Fund became operational in 1974 when the GSA issued its first rent bills to federal agencies. In 1972, the Administration established The Automated Data and Telecommunications Service, which evolved into the Office of Information Resources Management 10 years later. In 1973, GSA created the Office of Federal Management Policy, and GSA’s Office of Acquisition Policy centralized procurement policy in 1978.

In 1984, the GSA introduced the federal government to the use of charge cards. In 1987, it opened its first childcare center (it now manages 112 federal childcare facilities for more than 8,000 children across the country). In 1985, it began to provide government-wide policy oversight and guidance for federal real property management as a result of an Executive Order signed by President Ronald Reagan.

Inspired by the “Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture,” the GSA’s Public Building Service (PBS) introduced the Design Excellence Program to streamline the way GSA selects architects and engineers for major construction projects. In 1995, the GSA formed the Courthouse Management Group to manage the largest courthouse construction project in 50 years. Also, by 1995, all of its policy functions were merged into the Office of Government-wide Policy, which sets policy in the areas of personal and real property, travel and transportation, information technology, regulatory information, and use of federal advisory committees. By the end of the 1990s, the agency had launched GSA Advantage!™, an online portal for federal employees to purchase services and equipment through the agency, and it had merged the Information Technology Service and the Federal Telecommunication Service into the Federal Technology Service (FTS).

In September 2000, the GSA launched to simplify citizen access to government information and services. The following year, it assumed responsibility for President George W. Bush’s five E-Gov Initiatives: E-Authentication (now IDManagement),  Federal Asset Sales, Integrated Aquisition Environment (IAE), and USA Services.

In July 2002, GSA established the Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC) to manage its citizen-centered activities in a single organization. OCSC was designed to enable state and local governments, the public, businesses and the media to interact with the federal government online, via email, telephone, fax, or print. 

In 2005, the GSA consolidated the FTS into the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS), which was established to help the GSA better align the delivery of its services.

One of the reasons the GSA was founded was for emergency preparedness. In November 2006, the Office of Emergency Response and Recovery was formed to help the U.S. in case of a national disaster.

Part of this mission was met in 2008 when the GSA began offering 10-year contracts to private companies to set up contact centers for various government agencies during emergencies. The contracts totaled $2.5 billion.

To comply with President Bush’s National Continuity Policy, GSA implemented The National Continuity Policy Implementation Plan (NCPIP) in 2007 to ensure the timely recovery of the executive branch from any operational interruption and provide a centralized procurement system for all department and agencies.

Also in 2007, the GSA launched (a renaming and upgrading of, which provides citizens access to more than 180 million pages of online federal, state, local, and tribal government information. The GSA then unveiled, which makes federal, state, and local government information and services more accessible to those who speak Spanish.

In 2009, the GSA revamped OSCS into the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies as a means to connect the public to government information and services through innovative technologies. The GSA also implemented the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which awarded more than $5 billion to more than 500 companies across the U.S. to convert federal sites into “higher performing, greener buildings.”

In recent years, the GSA has focused on going green. In 2010, President Barack Obama announced that the older cars in the federal fleet would be replaced with fuel-efficient hybrids, cutting U.S. dependence on foreign oil and carbon dioxide emissions. In April 2010, the  GSA bought 5,600 hybrids. A 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the federal supply chain was the target of GSA’s 2010 Sustainability Plan. In July 2011, the GSA released a plan to require government contractors to track their greenhouse gas emissions, or risk losing out on contracts.

Public outreach, including transparency and information sharing, has also been a priority for the GSA under the Obama administration. Since 2010, the agency has launched a Social Media Directory and, in response to President Obama’s Open Government Directive, the web site to make information publicly available.

What it Does

The General Services Administration (GSA) functions as the U.S. government’s supplier of goods, services, and property for all federal agencies. GSA is responsible for helping the federal government operate on a day-to-day basis, managing $500 billion in federal assets, 8,600 federally owned or leased buildings, 208,000 vehicles, and 425 historic properties. In effect, the GSA is the source of everything from paperclips to multistory buildings for federal employees to utilize.

Even though the GSA’s budget is quite large ($24 billion), only 1.9% of it is provided through direct Congressional appropriations. The majority of its operating costs are recovered through the products and services it sells to other federal agencies.

The GSA serves as the acquisition and procurement arm of the federal government, offering equipment, supplies, telecommunications, and integrated information technology solutions to federal agencies. It also develops government-wide regulations and policies designed to help make federal operations cost-effective.

GSA Programs:

Design and Construction: The GSA is responsible for meeting the space requirements of federal agencies by providing policy direction and standards in the areas of Architecture & Engineering, CAD Standards, Commissioning, Construction Excellence, Design Excellence and the Arts, Sustainable Design, Urban Development, and Spatial Data Management.

Environmental Programs: The goal of these programs is to eliminate all damage to the environment resulting from federal operations, especially in the areas of design, construction, operation, maintenance, and disposal of thousands of federally owned real estates. The environment program works in coordination with the Sustainable Design and Energy programs. It also includes efforts involving Energy & Water Conservation, Fire Protection and Life Safety, GSA NEPA Implementation, Hazardous Materials, Integrated Pest Management, Landscaping, Waste Minimization, Asbestos Management, and Energy Awareness. 

GSA Properties: The GSA owns and leases over 354 million square feet of space in more than 2,200 communities nationwide. In addition to office buildings, GSA properties include land ports of entry, courthouses, laboratories, post offices, and data processing centers.

Historic Preservation: The GSA’s historic preservation program provides technical and strategic expertise to promote the viability, reuse, and integrity of historic buildings GSA owns, leases, and has the opportunity to acquire. Areas within this program include Archaeology, Building Manager Tools, Historic Buildings, Portfolio Management Resources, and Project Management Tools.

Facilities Management & Services: The GSA provides facilities management services for more than one million federal workers through its Public Buildings Service. Facilities management services include the following: cleaning, ground maintenance, utilities, building systems, and equipment maintenance, along with Child Care, Security, and

Governmentwide Real Property Information Sharing services.

Professional & Technical Solutions: The GSA provides a wide range of quality professional and technical services that cover Advertising, Marketing & PR, Business Consulting (MOBIS), Contact Center Services, Financial & Accounting Services, HR & Administrative Services, Logistics, Warehousing, & Distribution, and Professional Engineering Services (PES).

Shared Services: Federal departments and offices often have the same needs, which prompted the GSA to develop share services, such as:    

  • Accounting and Payroll Services: GSA provides payroll services to other federal agencies through the National Payroll Center. Other specialized services include information on FEDPAY Invoicing, the FEDdesk application and the GSA’s Federal Supply Service (FSS) Web Bill application, and the Payroll, Accounting and Reporting System (PAR).
  • Agency Liaison: This program provides high-level administrative and management support to small presidential and congressional agencies, boards, and commissions.
  • Financial Information for Vendors & Customers: The GSA has a portal for vendors and client agencies to access important financial information including the Defense Financial and Accounting Service and the TOPS portal to view current telephone service billings and payments.
  • Payment Search | Web Vendors: Companies with a valid user account may query GSA records to see whether they have been paid and to check the status of vendor payments, see the status of unpaid invoices, and submit electronic invoices.

Office & Furniture: The GSA can provide solutions for agencies office needs, such as Office Equipment, Office Supplies, and furniture solutions.

Security, Fire, & Law Enforcement: The GSA provides a full range of commercial products and services covering such areas as law enforcement, firefighting, and security products and services. These products and services may be found within four programs: 1122 Counterdrug Program; Security Solutions; Wildland Fire Program; and Security Alert Levels Nationwide. The Security and Law Enforcement Solutions Program offers the following five broad categories: Federal Supply Class 19 (Marine Craft and Equipment);

Federal Supply Class 42 (Firefighting and Rescue Equipment); Federal Supply Class 63 (Alarm and Signal Systems); Federal Supply Class 84 (Special Purpose Clothing); and

Federal Supply Class 84 (Law Enforcement and Security Equipment).

Travel, Transportation, & Vehicles: This division covers needs in the areas of Transportation Programs, Transportation Audits, Travel, Vehicle Buying, and

Vehicle Leasing.

Technology & Telecommunications: Everything from phones to Internet needs are provided through this program that covers IT Services, IT Hardware Products and Services, IPv6, Software & Applications, Cloud IT Services, Cybersecurity, Data Center Services, Green IT, Telepresence, and Telecommunications.

Aircraft Management: GSA makes policies for managing the acquisition, use, and disposal of aircraft that the federal civilian agencies own or hire.

GSA Offices:

The GSA interacts with other federal offices through its 11 Regional Offices and a central office in Washington D.C. Its two largest offices are the Federal Acquisition Service, which procures goods and services for U.S. government agencies, and the Public Buildings Service, which provides workplaces for federal customer agencies. Other offices include the:

  • Office of the Administrator oversees the operations and management of the GSA.
  • Office of Governmentwide Policy ensures that federal policies encourage agencies to develop and utilize the most cost-effective management practices for the conduct of their specific programs.
  • Office of the Chief Financial Officer ensures that the GSA operates in a compliant and efficient manner by providing accurate, cost-effective financial and performance analysis, reporting and advice.
  • Office of the Chief Acquisition Officer handles GSA acquisition activities and provides federal agency customers with acquisition services in support of their missions. 
  • Office of Chief Human Capital Officer works to attract, motivate, develop and retain GSA employees through the implementation of effective programs, policies, and operations regarding human capital.
  • Office of the Chief Information Officer pursues new ways of applying computing and communications technology to the practical problems of information management in order to reduce the cost and improve the quality of government services, reduce technology risk, and share the results of projects throughout the federal sector.
  • Congressional & Intergovernmental Affairs serves as advisor to the GSA administrator and supervises and maintains agency liaison with all members of congress and congressional committees. 
  • Office of Citizen Services & Innnovative Technologies serves as the nation’s focal point for information and services offered by the federal government, and conveys information about the GSA to federal employees and external audiences, including the media, agency customers, stakeholders, and the American public.
  • Office of Small Business Utilization promotes increased access to the GSA’s nationwide procurement opportunities.
  • Office of Performance Improvement drives the process for implementation of major performance improvement initiatives throughout all areas of the GSA.
  • Office of General Counsel provides legal advice and representation to GSA clients.
  • Office of Civil Rights ensures equal opportunities and nondiscrimination in GSA programs and activities.
  • Office of Emergency Response & Recovery ensures that the GSA maintains a constant state of readiness to perform its essential functions in response to emergencies, and prepares for the swift resumption of normal operations during emergency situations.
  • Civilian Board of Contract Appeals hears and decides contract disputes between government contractors and executive agencies.
  • Office of Management Services consolidates agency-wide administrative responsibilities, in addition to handling operations and contracting for GSA’s Central Office headquarters (based in Washington D.C.).

Disaster Recovery Purchasing allows state and local governments to purchase products and services from contracts awarded under the GSA Federal Supply Schedules to aid with recovery from a major disaster such as a terrorist or nuclear attack.

Cooperative Purchasing Program allows state and local governments to buy Informational Technology Products (IT), software, and services from contracts.

Computers for Learning Program aims to give opportunities to children by allowing schools and educational nonprofits to acquire surplus computer equipment from federal agencies.

Where Does the Money Go?

From 2002-20011, the General Services Administration (GSA) spent $164 billion on contracts to businesses and organizations, according to the federal website, In more than 7 million transactions, GSA paid for goods and services that included lease or rental of facilities ($39.7 billion), ADP and telecommunications services ($15 billion), trucks and tractor-trailers ($9.03 billion), and maintenance and repair of real property ($12.4 billion).

The five biggest spenders within GSA were the Public Buildings Service ($80.2 billion), Federal Technology Service ($47.8 billion), Federal Supply Service ($19.7 billion), Federal Acquisition Service (2.3 billion) and the Smithsonian Institution ($2.06 billion).

The five biggest GSA contracts awarded during the past decade went to:

1. SAIC Inc.                                                                         $4,373,645,835

2. Northrop Grumman Corporation                                      $3,167,872,615

3. Computer Sciences Corporation                                      $3,103,989,523

4. General Dynamics Corporation                                         $2,975,064,716

5. General Motors Company                                                  $2,714,041,648

Data on the General Services Administration 

Note: This graph's information was sourced directly from White House government data. A negative budget for a fiscal year may be caused by intergovernmental transfers or other reasons.